Saturday, November 18, 2017

Into the Mystic

Normal people are making gift lists and shopping lists and ingredient lists for their favorite recipes, all getting ready for the holidays.  Connie and I... we're  making lists of boat projects... because we're hauling our boat out for the holidays. We're doing " Haul-i-days!!!   Ha!

Instead of wrapping presents like most people, we're going to haul old Traveler out of the water and wrap HER in plastic.  We'll fire up propane heaters instead of yule logs so we can patch the scrapes on her keel and repaint her pretty round bottom.  These last couple of weeks after moving into Connie's rental house in Tumwater, we've been carting stuff off the boat, down the dock, up the ramp and into our little pickup truck to haul over to the house.

Somehow or another over the last five years we've been able to pack enough stuff into the tiny little cubby holes and gargantuan lockers on Traveler to fill up a 1,300 square foot house.  Every time we go to the boat we unearth more treasures. As these items come off the boat, the waterline (stripe on the side of the boat where boat meets water) rises.  She's sitting so high out of the water now that I'll have to remeasure the mast height to see if I can still pass under the Agate Pass bridge without knocking off the VHF radio antennae.

Connie has this cute little rental house in Tumwater where we have set up residence for the winter.  We bought a bed and a dining room table and that's about it.  Coming off the boat, this house, while only 1350 square feet, seems huge.  We find ourselves using only three rooms, the head, the master cabin, and the galley.   Because we've spent the last seven years sharing a 53 inch wide bed, we went whole hog and ordered a California King bed from Tuft & Needle. After shoehorning it into the bedroom (master cabin) we find ourselves drifting around the big bed searching for each other through the night.  From the master cabin we dash through two totally unnecessary rooms named "living" and "dining" to find the kitchen where we've recreated Traveler's galley with the addition of a tiny table (settee) and a stand up heater.  The bathroom (head) is totally out of proportion with a tub big enough to submerge a small crew member.  Try as we might we can't stop putting TP into the trash can instead of the commode.  As you see, it's difficult to adjust to life on the hard.

We got the news this week from Sarah Krill at Swantown Boatworks that she's found a place in the yard for us to put the boat for three months.  November 30, two hours before high tide, we'll haul her out($388.50), give her beautiful bottom a good scrubbing ($126), and block her up in the yard where she can be until the end of February (at $325.50 per month).  Somehow or another we've got to motivate ourselves to be creative with tarps and get some deck work and painting done over the winter.
Folding up the big genoa

Here is the honey-do list:
Patch and prime the keel

Sand and paint the hull
Remove the broken anchor windless and put in a new one or fix the old one

Sand and paint the freeboard
Rip up the rest of the teak decking
Glass and paint the decks
Hunt down a couple of leaks and put a stop to that nonsense
Replace the propeller shaft
Do quite a bit of varnishing down below
Replace headliners where they are drooping

The only problem I can see with our proposed location in the yard is that it's awfully close to the area where they put the old derelict boats that are slated for destruction. The southwest corner of the yard is where old boats go to die. We've seen these old gems get pulled out onto the pavement where a backhoe can get at them, jaws snapping, hydraulic fluid dripping.  With three big dumpster/coffins ready, the executioner breaks up the vessels and loads the splintered wood and fiberglass into the containers destined for burial in the landfill. Sad.

We'll be just a few feet from that last resting place of so much nautical history.  I just hope the backhoe operator/executioner doesn't mistake our dear Traveler for a poor old boat who's moorage bills were in arrears.

You might be thinking that the title of this post, "Into the Mystic" is referring to the ascent, or decent, of old vessels into the beyond.  But no.

We, that is Connie and I and Traveler and monkey, are embarking on a journey into the mystic which is Mystic Journeys, our new charter business. Rick and Ada have finished up the 2017 charter season on their boat Clara June and what a season it was, with record business and countless great reviews.  Talk about going out with a bang!  We will be switching lives with those two.  While we move into a house, they will be moving out of theirs.  While we have moved out of Traveler, they will be moving into Clara June.  We go to work.  They go to play.  They are off to the wilds of Canada and we're navigating the muddy channels of East Bay downtown Swantown.
The next two boats headed for the wrecking yard

We've gotta figure out how to start a Limited Liability Company, take over a web site, setup accounting procedures, get a reservation system started, score a marina slip with curb appeal, and order matching nautical outfits with our logo and company colors.

We will offer.....
Day sails of 2 to 6 hour duration in Bud Bay and beyond.
Overnight cruises to picturesque islands and remote moorings.
Multi-day adventures in south, central, and north Salish Sea.
Dinners aboard, music, kayaking, crabbing, mast climbing, barnacle scraping, galley cleaning, dodging rain showers and tidal rapids, and white knuckle bouts at the helm when the squalls roar in from the south.

If you wanna be part of the action, give us a call and we can book you on a relaxed summer cruise next June, July, August or September.   Until then, we'll be down here in the boatyard, scraping and painting away.  You are welcome to join in on the fun either way

Monday, September 4, 2017

We Are Home

Hope Island, will be one of our six hour cruises next year
I'm not sure what home means, or where home IS. Whatever it means, I suppose we are there now.  For three months this summer we woke up each morning trying to remember exactly where we were.... presuming we were some place to the north of Olympia.  First we bumped around Puget Sound for way too many weeks, then we visited various islands in the San Juans, then we crossed the border into Canada and gunkholed our way up the inside of Vancouver Island.

106 days out, we anchored 60 times, many of those stern ties in steep terrain. We grabbed free reciprocal moorage 26 times thanks to our memberships in the South Sound Sailing Society and the UW Sailing club.  Our Washington State Park pass netted us 22 mooring balls or docks, well worth its purchase price.  Of course we used some diesel, by cruising in the no-wind summertime bliss of the Pacific Northwest, but we did have some sailing time.  The key there is to get into open water like the Strait of Georgia or the Strait of Juan de Fuca or to take advantage of the inflow daytime wind up fjords.

Ada and Rick on Clara June - Mystic Journeys

We ate lots of crab.  Also harvested shrimp and oysters.  Provisioning was not a problem as there are big stores in the big towns and little stores in the little towns and we were quite pleased with the variety and quality of foods in Canada.  We were pleased as well with the welcoming attitude of the Canadians.  It seemed to us that the default attitude in Canada was to just be nice... always. (Maybe they felt sorry for us given our current political situation...)

Back on G dock at Swantown Marina in Olympia we have some projects (always projects) to take care of before we leave for sunny California for a month at the tomato farm.  On our return October 30, Obrador, a band Connie played in for many years, has a show at the Rhythm and Rye that will be lots of fun. (It's a costume party!)  Come November we'll move into Connie's rental house so that this winter we will have a warm, dry place to stay, unlike last winter when we struggled with rain, rain, and freezing temperatures.

Harbor Days this weekend in Budd Bay out to watch the tug boat races with friends.
We've started the process of taking on the charter business, Mystic Journeys, from Rick and Ada, doing ride-along crewing with them to see how they manage their charters. This winter we'll be spiffing up old Traveler and morphing the Mystic Journeys web site to accommodate the change in owners, crew, and boat.

The other day we took out five friends for a three hour cruise on Budd Bay to watch the tug boat races.  From that experience I'm convinced our sailboat Traveler will do just fine running 6-Pack charters out of Olympia. There is plenty of room up deck, in the cockpit, and down below in the cabin.  She's a sea kindly, stable vessel who loves to have fun!

Come next spring we'll be offering skippered charters, two, three, four, and six hour cruises here in Budd Bay as well as overnight and multi-day trips. We'll offer dinner cruises, music cruises, kid's cruises, wine/cheese paring sunset cocktail hours, and just about any kind of cruise you can dream up. Nothing too kinky, though.  If our experience is anything like what Rick and Ada have been doing, we'll be jam packed during the months of July and August.

Like as not, our hair-raising adventures of these past years will probably mellow out somewhat over the next few seasons.  But we'll do our best to catch the boat on fire, run aground, sink her, run into nefarious characters, get ripped off, break the law, starve, feast, and break stuff left and right.  Connie will continue to play music when she can and I'll be immersed in boat and house projects.  Gosh darn, it's a good life.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

It's a Crazy World

This post is originally from October 2017 but I moved it down a slot so that other sailing/chartering posts would float to the top.......  sv

What a strange week it has been.  As many of you know, Connie and I travel to California most Octobers to enjoy the warm weather and help out with the harvest.  I guess now I should say we travel to California for the fire season and participate in evacuations.

Last Sunday night the wind picked up and by midnight was blowing 40 mph, knocking down tree limbs and rattling the roof with acorns and pine cones.  A ladder fell over, lawn chairs went sailing, and roofing paper started to tear off our structure.  We had to secure doors and windows in the middle of the night.  We went outside to see the deer out in front of our building in the only clear area, munching on a feast of downed acorns.  Sleep was illusive.
Fires down the valley

Monday we found out from neighbors that the windstorm extended south all the way to the Bay area.  Downed power lines sparked fires all down the valley.  It has been a strange year, climate wise, in California.  They had lots of rain early in the season that brought a bumper crop of grasses.  Now these grasses are tinder dry after months without rain and are prime for burning.  About mid-day our friend returned from a reconnoiter across the hills with the news that a fire had started in the valley below and was burning out of control and in our direction.  We quickly put together we we needed to camp out for the night (and some beers) and headed down the mountain. 

Once on the valley floor we could see the smoke in the distance.  Following that smoke, we found the fire and cautiously approached.  Connie wanted to go away from the fire.  Her son Ezrah wanted to get closer.  We compromised.  We sat on a back road watching a line of flame running up hill north of town.  Our place was to the east so we breathed a sigh of relief.

Now that we knew where the fire was headed we felt we could go back up the hill. We did so, made our report, had dinner, and went to bed.

Tuesday was smokey and we spent the day monitoring the situation and trying to get a little work done.  The wind had turned southerly and evidently had driven the fire north. All afternoon we cold hear and see big planes overhead headed to the fire to "bomb" them with fire retardants.

Wednesday was still smokey.  By mid afternoon a neighbor came by and after a quick reconnoiter on the overlook above the property it was decided that we'd evacuate again as the fire was marching up the hill towards our area.  The three of us, Connie, Ezrah, and Scott, loaded up the truck again and drove down the hill.  On the way out we could see huge plumes of smoke and flame just below us in the foothills. At the bottom of the hill we joined a mass of cars and trucks and lots of folks who'd been flushed out of their remote properties by the smoke. Strange it was to stand on a dirt road with all those folks staring off to the north where huge plumes of smoke rolled into the sky.  Reluctantly we drove south out of the valley to the nearby town of Ukiah, emergency crews passing us going north to fight the fire.

In town, we filled the truck with gas then tried to find a hotel room.  Everything was booked.  We found the Red Cross shelter at the local high school and decided that was our best bet.  By then it was night so we settled into the school gymnasium.  Connie and I placed two cots together and covered them with blankets we'd brought.  Ezrah made his bed in the back of the pickup truck.  We had spaghetti for dinner along with the other refugees and later sat in the truck drinking wine and listening to the radio for fire updates.

Imagine a gymnasium full of people sleeping, or trying to sleep, on cots. Snoring. Coughing. Crying. Some of the people there were young trimmers run out of their temporary jobs by the fire. Others had fled their homes before they were consumed by fire.  Many sad people.  It was heartbreaking.

The Red Cross volunteers were so kind and had lots of information for us about where the fires were and what roads were closed.  It turns out that just after we made our exit from the valley the main road was closed to incoming traffic and a mandatory evacuation was in progress.  We got out just in time.  As we listened to the radio of a press conference at the local command center I was impressed with the professionalism of each presenter.  Each person made their agency report briefly,  thoroughly, and calmly.   Support was available for everyone.  Shelters for humans and animals were available.  Text, email, and phone alerts were in place.  Help poured in from all over the state and the country.

It struck me that this is how government is supposed to work.  This was so NOT like what we see on the national scene.  Nobody was tooting their own horn.  No criticism, no raised voices, no negativity.

Monkey in a diving bell
The next morning after breakfast at the shelter we packed our things up and headed south down highway 101.  In the car, we finally contacted our friend in the hills and he told us how just before nightfall a slew of big planes brought in a huge dump of fire retardant and stopped the advance of the fire up the hill toward his property.  Later, he watched the fire retreat to the south as the wind changed with the evening.

We drove through areas near Calistoga where fields and building on both sides of the highway were burned to the ground.  We saw blackened property in Santa Rosa and live fires to the east being doused by helicopters hauling huge bags of water.  It was smoky all the way south into the Bay area where we see many people wearing masks as they walk the streets.

Now we are stuck in a loop where we check the California Fire website and see that our entry road back up to the farm is still closed, then we wait for the next report.  Today Connie and I took BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) to the waterfront in San Francisco and had a nice walk around in the crowds of tourists to see the sights and hear the sounds.  Bombarded with sounds and smells, it was quite overwhelming.  In a few hours we'd had enough of the big city and took transit back across the bay.

After the stress of living with the fire, and the stress of fleeing south, and the onslaught of all this city culture we are all three on edge.  Tempers are quick to flare.  I, myself, feel tired and want to just sit in the sun somewhere and think about nothing.  The good thing is that we found a soft place to land.  Connie found old friends just south of Oakland CA who has taken us in.  Alicia and Darin are providing us with needed distractions in their safe and comfortable home.

Tomorrow we'll check the road closures again.  If we can't get back to the farm we just might have to give it all up and drive back to Olympia, two weeks before planned.  Fires are burning all across California and in other states as well.  These California fires are more intense and more widespread than ever before.  While we'd considered buying some property in northern California, these fires have convinced us to stick with a wetter climate in Oregon or Washington.  Honestly, with all these extreme weather related events,I think it's time to figure out where the safest place is for us to be and to start moving towards creating a secure homestead for us and our loved ones.  Seriously, we're looking toward digging in (like with land... dirt) and find a land based property that will give us shelter in the unforgiving future that is our new reality.
Connie at Fisherman's Wharf


Friday, August 25, 2017

An Eclipse Brings Sanity to a Troubled World

Catching the flood tide, we motored south from Kingston and into Port Madison, passing Suquamish on the way to Agate Pass.  A festival was in progress and the Suquamish tribe were having dragon boat races.  We stopped for a while to watch, floating along with the current.  With the flood tide we clocked eight knots up Agate Pass and the current spit us out into the body of water called Port Orchard.  Checking with the office at the Brownsville Marina we found no reciprocal room at their docks so we continued south to the state park dock at Illahee where in May, we had the place all to ourselves. 

That afternoon we found boats on mooring buoys but no boats at the actual dock. The float there has about 150 feet of moorage on the outside.  The inside of the float is ten feet shallower than the outside, an unnecessary risk.  As we approached we could see quite a few people on the dock either fishing or crabbing.  We've stayed at numerous state park floats this season, and most of them were full of moored boats and not many people fishing.  Earlier in the year we found ourselves alone at park docks but as the weather warmed, the docks were filling.  I was surprised to find this dock without a single boat tied up and also surprised at the number of people fishing and crabbing.  Unbeknownst to us, this was a very popular fishing dock during crab season.
Lots of little crabs at Illahee

We chose a spot in the center of the dock so as not to inconvenience too many fishers/crabbers.  We did block the view of this one old man in a folding chair but he and his daughter left a few minutes later.  While we didn't get a warm welcome from anyone on the dock, there didn't seem to be a problem with us being there.  People were throwing crab pots off the dock, baiting them with chicken parts.  They'd leave the ringed nets down for ten minutes then haul them briskly up so the crabs could not get away.  Then they'd sort through them, tossing out the little ones and keeping the big ones.  Walking the dock to see what kind of crab was being harvested, I noticed that many of the people were keeping crabs that looked too small to be legal and no one was using a measuring tool.  That's their business, though.

A little calmer the next morning
We filled out our payment slip and settled in for the evening.  Later, some guy started yelling and we went up on deck to see what all the noise was about.  An older, heavy set , white man was setting up his folding chair near the stern of our boat and was yelling at us!  "Why, with that whole ocean out there, do you have to park here?  Can't you see we are fishing?"  Trying to answer him, we soon realized that there was nothing we could say to placate this man. How about.. We had paid our moorage.  or... The dock is for boats AND fishermen. or....Can't we share?

Nothing we said made any difference to this guy and it became apparent to us that there was to be no discussion, no resolution, and no options but conflict.  He got more and more belligerent, cursing us and referring to us in vulgar terms. Really mean stuff.  A woman nearby put her hands over her child's ears so she would not have to hear the talk.  I must say that this old guy and his over-the-top verbal assault got us worked up pretty quickly.  "I can say whatever I want, to whoever I want, and you can't stop me!" he said.  Then he cursed about my crab floats that I'd taken out in the dinghy about 300 feet off the dock, saying that we were taking crab away from everyone on the dock. "Damn liberals.  I bet you voted for Bernie." The rhetoric got worse and a couple of other men on the dock started to get behind our old guy, one young buck puffing out his chest and getting in my face, ready to fight.  We were quite overwhelmed with the anger expressed and the foul language so we retreated back inside.  
Not having our wits about us to take a picture of angry white men, I choose to show you a teapot and fresh baked bread

I would have preferred to just leave the dock and drop anchor some place but Connie would not have it.  She wanted to stand her ground.  So we stayed below, had dinner, and listened to music.  Outside there was more yelling (and drinking) but finally as the sun set, the dock began to clear and by nightfall we had the place to ourselves.

The next morning a few people showed up with their crab pots and other folks started arriving to watch the eclipse that was happening mid morning.  I spoke with a park attendant about our incident and she knew all about the guy who was making trouble for us.  He'd been doing that all summer, picking fights with anyone he didn't like and getting everyone stirred up.  Illahee is near Bremerton (home of a large naval base) so there are plenty of right wing people who use the fishing float.  Seems like this guy was taking his queue from "he-who-shall-not-be-named" in our nation's capital and so felt he could say whatever foul thing that came to mind, attacking anyone he wanted. Is this the new normal?

Using cereal box with a pin prick hole for viewing eclipse
I was somewhat relieved to hear that the park employees were aware of the situation and were clearly supportive of Connie and I.  Yes, we had the right to dock our boat and yes, the float was there for everyone to share.  Pushing back our fear of Illahee crabbers, we got out on the dock and started talking to folks.  Every person there was nice.  As the eclipse progressed the light changed to a semi-overcast but clear sky tint, bathing the whole scene in a peaceful aura.  We shared our eclipse viewing glasses with anyone who didn't have them and it seemed like everyone had a fine time that morning.  I gave my glasses to a couple of kids who were trying to view the eclipse through cereal boxes with a pin hole and we had fun watching the kids poking the little crabs as they came up in the nets.  We quietly pushed off the dock and made our way back out into Puget Sound, feeling much better about the world in general. As the eclipse waned the sunshine lit up the tide rips in Rich Passage and we glided eastward.

Tesla bringing in the jib sheet.

Passing Blake Island, we got a text from Connie's daughter Tesla who was free that afternoon for a sail, so we changed our plans and diverted over to Elliot Bay to pick her up at the Bell Harbor dock, downtown Seattle.  After a few hours of sailing,  we dropped her back at the marina before sundown and sailed back to Blake Island where we found lots of room at the public dock... and not a crabber in sight.

I had to write about this incident because it really had an effect on both of us.  I worry that rude, obscene behavior might be viewed as the new normal in our society by disenfranchised people who sympathize with the so called alt/right and more importantly, their high level government leader(s). 

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

We Love Lopez

After my "do over" birthday at Friday Harbor we moved Traveler over to Fisherman Bay on Lopez, waiting until late afternoon so as to arrive on a rising tide but before the highest water.  After the groundings we decided it is ALWAYS prudent to transit shallow waters on an incoming tide so if we do run aground we'd float off pretty quickly.  After some discussion, post grounding, we decided it was time to put some good luck in the bank by trying to anticipate problems, being proactive about route planning and boat maintenance, and taking things slowly and carefully.

Staff dinner at Vita's
We stayed four days on Lopez, three at anchor and one at the reciprocal dock. Thursday was open mic night at the Islander so we joined the fun there.  On Friday we carted Connie's equipment to Vita's Wildly Delicious and she played for a wine tasting.  It was a wonderful evening.  Our Mexico cruising friends Shane and Tina were there and we had a good time hanging out with them.  The music went well.  The tip jar was full.  We had a late dinner with the owner Bruce and his staff at Vita's, capping off a fun evening with a great meal and an abundance of wonderful wine.
Tina and Shane from S/V Vagrant

On Saturday Connie toted her ukulele to the Lopez Farmer's Market and did some busking to an appreciative and friendly audience.  We met so many nice people on Lopez.  Everyone seems so relaxed and happy.  Of course, we want to move there now. What a musical couple of days we had!
CB busking with friend Jane looking on
Crossing the Strait of Juan de Fuca was a little boring with no wind to start then some wind later on to scoot us on our way.  Half way across we were hailed on the VHF radio by Bob and Pam on Emerald Lady and we crossed within two miles of each other as she traveled westward on the way to Barclay Sound on the outside of Vancouver Island.  Hello!

Now that we'd run aground a few times all to recently, we both are a little hesitant to navigate in shallow waters.  The entrance to Sequim Bay, with only twelve feet of depth made us a little nervous.  There was no reciprocal available, as usual, at John Wayne Marina so we found the Washington State marine park float and stayed for three days while relaxing with our friends Keith, Lisa, and Karen.  We had dropped a couple of crab traps just outside of the bay when we came in so I made the long run in the dinghy back out there to pick them up the next morning. Both traps were crammed full of big fat crabs, most of them male, most of them keepers.  We caught our limit and had a crab feast at the Dekker's house that evening and spent the night at their house, our first night off the boat in six months.  Neither of us slept well, most likely because the house didn't rock back and forth like the boat does.

From Sequim, we retraced our path around the corner to Port Townsend and lucked out with free reciprocal moorage at Boat Haven. The next day we motored south and found reciprocal at Kingston for two nights where Connie played music at d'Vine Wines there.  I just love it when we have zero costs for moorage and Connie is bringing in cash from her gigs.  We sometimes have a positive cash flow! 

Open mic night at the Islander

Yes we are working our way south every day, planning on being in Olympia by August 26th.  We'll meet with Rick and Ada on Clara June to talk about us taking over their charter business Mystic Journeys next year and to arrange for Connie and I to ride along on a few charters this summer/fall to see how they operate.  Traveler is now legal for taking out paying customers so there is a possibility that we'll be teaming up with Clara June for charters of six to twelve people.  More on that later.  For now... we slowly head south, toward friends, work, and what's shaping up to be a golden September.  


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Run aground, part two

After the trauma of running aground we stayed put in Waiatt Bay near the Octopus Islands, had a nice hike, then left the bay using the safe entrance this time.  We ran Beasley Passage at 11:12 and before you knew it were approaching the northern section of the Strait of Georgia.  On the VHF radio we heard someone, somewhere hailing the sailing vessel Precious Metal.  We'd met Pam and Henry in Mexico and were delighted to connect with them on the radio.  They were in the vicinity so we changed our plans and headed over to Heriot Bay to rendezvous with them.

The last time I was in Heriot Bay was with Keith Dekker many years ago on our little Newport 27, Platypus, about nine years ago.  Back then, we had roared into the bay running from a southeasterly, arriving in the rain and seeking shelter.  We finally tied to the fuel dock and spent the evening in the pub, then (after many beers) ran through the downpour to get back to the boat.  This time, it was sunny and we enjoyed crab cocktails on the back deck of the mighty Precious Metal.
Precious Metal - Pamela and Henry

Traveler ran across Strait of Georgia to Manson's landing and the organic store there, then we jumped south across the strait back to Henry Bay on Denman Island, just outside of Comox on Vancouver Island.  We caught a nice northwesterly and with the lightweight gennaker flying, roared into the anchorage, turning downwind to douse the sail then upwind to drop the anchor. Picture perfect.  Except we ended up in 12 feet of water and had to reset the anchor.   Resetting turned out to be difficult as the wind piped up and I had a heck of a time keeping her head to wind while Connie payed out the anchor chain.
Oysters, mussels, and clams

The next day I called Kathy and Hal in Deep Bay.  They had a ham cooking and an empty slip so we coasted down the channel and visited them at the marina.  Hot showers, ham dinner, and a smoky sunset from the top deck of Ms. Kathryn.
We've seen some whales

In transit mode, we decided to make some miles and motored south all day down to an anchorage in Northwest Bay and watched the birds playing on the log booms there.  The next day we made more southing and ended up grabbing the last open slip for reciprocal moorage at the Nanaimo Yacht Club.

Working further south we had a long run to Winter cove on Saturna Island. We wove our way into the shallow bay- it was high tide- and found a little pocket of 25 ft water to set our anchor down.  There is a little cut in the reef there that lets water in from the Strait of Georgia so we had a lot of current racing by the boat all night, tossing her head port and starboard.  We could hear the anchor chain grinding on the rocks below.

The next day, my 64th birthday, we started to feel our way out of the anchorage.  The current was stronger than I thought and we got swept towards shallow water.  The GPS chart showed a channel we could negotiate but when we did so the boat struck .... hard.  What an uncomfortable sound and feeling it is to run hard aground on rocks.  You hear a crunch and stumble forward and the boat comes to an abrupt halt.  Reverse did no good. We were hung up.

As we had but two hours before low tide there was nothing to do but wait for the tide to go out, then come back in.  Having practiced the routine just a few days before, we knew what to do.  Put the motor on the dinghy, drive it around to find where deeper water lies, put out kedge anchors, and wait.

There is nothing more uncomfortable than watching your home tilting 25 degrees.  This time we put out two anchors windward, one on the stern and one amidship.  These held Traveler from being pushed further aground as the tide finally started rising. Eventually we got off.  I consulted the GPS and we headed her slowly to the west. Then THUD, we grounded again, right where the GPS chart said we'd have depth.  We backed off quickly then anchored the boat.

Forget the charts. Forget the GPS. Let's do it the old school way.  I got back in the dinghy and with a handheld depth sounder found us a route to deeper water.  Using a handheld compass, from that big tree across the bay to the little dock at a heading of 200 degrees there is a  minimum depth of 12 feet.  Back aboard Traveler with just barely enough forward travel to have steerage we crept out.  This time Connie leaned over the bow giving me soundings every 15 seconds.  "Twelve point five feet.  Eleven Feet.  Eleven and a half."

I pointed the hand compass at 200 degrees and lined up the tree and dock and eventually we were free.  It was 16:00 on my birthday and so far, things had not gone so well.  We left the bay to go pick up the crab traps and one had gone missing, swept away by the current.  The other had one female.  Oh well.  Going out the channel the current was against us so we were making only about two knots.  Finally, as we approached Active Pass, I got out the charts, found the nearest anchorage, and we ducked into Ellen Bay, dropping the hook in a safe 40 feet of water with lots of swinging room and no shallows or rocks in the vicinity.

That's when I said, "Can we just have a do-over for my birthday?"

So today is my do-over birthday, and we had a nice time motoring back into the USA and Friday Harbor to check into customs, grab reciprocal moorage, take hot showers, and have home made pizza for dinner. While I'm not too happy to be back in this crazy country, it's pretty nice up here in the San Juans, and Connie is playing music on Friday night at Vita's on Lopez Island!  Soon we'll have to dive the boat and see what kind of scrapes and gouges we have in the hull. But in the meantime, we are glad to be afloat.
What do you want for your birthday dinner?  Why, pizza and a fancy bottle of wine please.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Run Aground

I'm rigging a crab trap on the top deck when Connie rings out with, "Twenty Feet!"  I knew the little pass into Waiatt Bay was somewhat shallow, so... not to worry.  "Nineteen, fifteen, ten, nine" This is when she started to freak out.  "Seven... F***" I told her to put it in neutral but she already had.  "Five and a half" and then that crunching sound and the deck canted underfoot.  Connie put her in reverse.  Traveler rotated a little then came to a standstill, stuck.  Run aground. High and dry.

I looked overboard, port and starboard and checked the steering.  When I dove down below I saw that Connie had already opened up the floorboards to check for incoming water.  The bilges were dry.  The GPS showed that we were right at the edge of a shallow area with a cute little X of a rock in the center.  That little X was in the center of the entrance to Waiatt Bay and I had failed to see it on the chart. 
Our GPS track.......oops
"What do we do?", she says.  I looked winward and sure enough the wind was pushing us onto the rocks.  I looked at the dinghy and could see by the way she was drifting that the current was pushing us in the same direction.  Our saving grace was that we'd chosen to make our run today on a rising tide, but we sure didn't want the current and wind to keep pushing us onto the rocks as the tide rose.

"Let's get the motor on the dink and I'll take a stern anchor out."  I jumped into the dinghy and Connie lowered the outboad engine onto the transom.  She tossed me the hand held depth sounder and I circled the boat taking depth measurements.  2.5 feet at the bow. 3 feet on the port side.  5 feet on starboard.  7 feet on the stern. I could tell by the waterline that she was sitting a couple of inches high on the port side. That's it, we'll get the anchor out behind us. 

We manhandled the big aluminum danforth anchor into the dinghy and piled in the 30 feet of chain.  As I drove to windward through the little pass Connie payed out the line.  Checking the depth, I waited until I was in deep water before running out the chain and tipping the anchor out of the boat.  When I returned to Traveler Connie had already taken the anchor rode to the stern winch and was busily cranking away.  The line stiffened and the anchor held.   We looked at each other with big bug eyes then rechecked the bilges. Dry.

Connie grinds the winch, easing us off the rocks
"Gimme the camera." I took some pictures while a fellow sailor in a dinghy came by to help.  "I've got a 15 horsepower motor.  Want me to try to pull her off?", he said.  Since we had a rising tide and a good anchor to windward it was only a matter of time til she came off on her own.  There was no need to scrape any more fiberglass.

Sooner that we thought, the anchor rode went a little slack and we cranked her off the reef and towards the wind.  The decks became level. Our blood pressure dropped, and our eyes popped back into our heads.  While Connie drove the boat, I hauled in the rode, chain, and anchor by hand.  She circled the boat around and we took our second attempt to enter the bay, this time even slower and more to port.  I stayed down below with the GPS.  "A little to port.  A little more.  That's good. Now to starboard."  Up top Connie announced, "12 feet, 20 feet, 25 feet."  We were through.

The big Danforth anchor
After a shock like that, much like getting thrown off a horse, they say you should get right back in the saddle.  So I got the bait into the crab trap and we found a nice spot in 65 feet of water, not 50 yards west of that evil entrance rock.  The trap went down and off we went to the anchorage to find a nice flat spot in 35 feet.  Anchor down, engine off, don't you know we decided to have cocktails even though it was only 4:30 in the afternoon?   

Lessons learned:  When transiting a tight entrance or any place with hazards keep your eyes on the GPS and paper charts.  Use the zoom on the GPS.  Don't let other things distract you at these times.  The crab trap can wait.  I like having the chart plotter at the navigation station down below but if I'm going to have it there then we should mount a second unit right there at the helm.  If we'd had that, I am sure that Connie would have seen that little X and would have stopped the boat in time.

What we did right:  We were going pretty slow.  Connie had her in neutral as soon as the depth got shallow.  We didn't panic but checked the bilge and the rudder right away. We took soundings and quickly deployed a stern anchor to kedge her off. 

What the heck?


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Phillips Arm to Owen Bay

Dent Rapids
The internet at the Stuart Island Community Dock was not working so well so I didn't post my blog that day. Now we are up north, there is no easy internet and no phone service so I'll have to release whatever blog entries that have piled up once we get to Cortez Island and civilization.  At Stuart Island Connie walked to Eagle Lake and, sure enough, saw dozens of eagles.  I found reading material at the "Take a book, leave a book" library and offloaded some of my old stuff.

It is kinda scary but certainly fun running the narrow, fast moving channels.  I'm a little tense, watching the clock as we head toward the skinny part of the channel where at full ebb or flood the water boils in standing waves and whirlpools abound. But we always pass at slack current, or slightly with current, so the timing is essential. When you are transiting the rapids, so is everyone else.  It's a little daunting to see a mass of boats coming forward at you.  I'm hoping they are watching where they are going! Then when they've passed, their wake action is added to the normal jiggidy jaggedy flopping around of the tidal currents and Traveler is fairly dancing around, heading this way and that.

On the radio we hear folks from the little marinas telling boaters to watch their wake!  As these lodges and marinas are right on the channels, boats will come upon them without being aware and as we know, some of the power vessels throw quite a wake.  At Codero lodge in Nodales channel that gal must sit in her office overlooking the channel and be quick on the mic.  "Slow down, we have a delicate dock." And she blows the big air horn.  The approaches to Codero have spray painted "SLOW" written on the rock walls.

Being this far north we only hear snippets of conversations on the radio. We hear one sided conversations, usually the Coast Guard radio operator (a very powerful signal) asking questions to disabled mariners. "Are you in need of assistance?" "What's your location?" or "Please take your conversation to another working channel." and our favorite, "There is a blue hulled 32 foot powerboat with a rope wrapped around the propeller.  Anyone who can provice assistance...." Up here, north of Desolation Sound, these radio conversations are usually about boaters in far flung, more southerly and populated areas. 

We listen to the VHF Weather each day to hear what wind conditions are like in the Strait of Georgia and Johnstone Strait. Up in these fjords though, the wind is predictable, usually calm in the morning and up-channel in the afternoon.  When we were down south off the Straits of Georgia we could hear station #1 and then maybe station #2.  Now up here, none of that is available and the only reliable one is station # 8 and occasionally #7 but he's usually speaking French so that one is only good for amusement purposes.   

We met a guy at Pender harbor, when we were anchored at whiskey slough. We take the time to talk to strangers, especialy locals, because we learn all sorts of good stuff about the area.  This guy was in a beat up dinghy, loading Spam, chili, and beer. We asked him where we might see bear and trap for crab, mentioning that we were headed for Teakarn Arm. He said to visit Phillips Arm, where we'd see lots of bear, catch ling cod, and take in lots of crab. Fanny bay, in Phillips Arm is the place. Days later, when we got to Fanny Bay we dropped a shrimp trap at the entrance but didn't anchor there because the bay was full of logging equipment. Instead we pushed up into the head of Phillips Arm and got the anchor well set.  How well set we'd find out later.

It is a little strange when you are at anchor having dinner and you see trees swinging by the windows as the boat swings in the wind.  At first it is a little disconcerting as you think the anchor might have pulled loose but it's just swinging.  We set the anchor alarm on the AIS to alert us if we get more than 30 meters from our anchoring spot.  We leave it on all night and I sleep well because of it.  
Anchored in Phillips Arm

So here we are in Phillips Arm looking for bear, scanning the rocky beaches, sweeping the binoculars side to side.  There is one little house across the bay and we see, right near the house, a brown bear on the shore flipping over stones. A woman stands on the little dock watching the grizzly.  It is low tide so Mr. Bear has a good size smorgisboard to work his way through.  With 15 feet of tide up here, the big mud estuary covers with water and looks like a nice deep bay.  Don't try to sail Traveler across it.  There will be only a couple feet of water and she needs six and a half. 

Can you see the bear?

The guy was certainly right about the crab. First trap got two of the right size and sex, 165mm and male.  Second trap got three more. The next day I brought home seven. Those seven boy crabs were in a heck of a bad mood, being stacked into the bright orange Home Depot bucket one on top of the other.  The first day there was a lot of crab shell and guts after cleaning so I rowed a bucket of it ashore and dumped it there for the eagles to snack on. 

We took a trip up the river in the dinghy just as high tide approached.  We ran up as far as we could, keeping going, continuing until the current against us was so strong that the engine couldn't move us forward.  We turned around and sped down river at a terrific rate.  Back at the estuary, the mud flats were gone and we snuck across in just a few feet of water.  Get back, check the traps.
Up from the depths came this big waterlogged tree

In the morning, after harvesting more crabs, we hauled up the anchor and found we'd harvested an enormous waterlogged, petrified tree covered in barnacles and sea stars.  This sulky giant was as long as the boat and our chain was tightly wrapped around one of its limbs. There was nothing to do but get in the dinghy with the hack saw and do a little sawing to release the big giant.  We watched it slowly sink back into the depths to lie at the bottom and wait for then next mariner.  I know the location.  It's marked on the chart with a little red anchor that means, "Drop your anchor here."

On the way out of the Arm we brought up the shrimp trap and found four big prawns and 12 spot prawns. I sat in the cockpit and ripped their heads off and stowed the tails in the freezer.  Then I had to stun the seven big crabs with a winch handle and rip them apart.  We boiled them four at a time then popped them into the refrigerator to cool.  

By the time we finished processing the shrimp and crab we found ourselves at Blind Bay resort and dock.  They were so friendly there, letting us tie up at the airplane dock while we shopped.  Later, they helped us walk Traveler to a better location so Connie and I could put on our hiking shoes and go find the big cedar Tree on the "Big Cedar Tree" hike. It's lovely to walk through an old second growth forest and find huge old growth trees.  We read the plaque put there by the logging company that explained how second growth forests and selectively thinned forests are more healthy and biodiverse than old growth. Hmmmm.

Back on the water and rounding the bend we see masses of dolphins leaping in Johnstone strait, jumping right out of the water with happiness.  Little red boats stuffed with red suited customers zoom back and forth clicking cameras and smart phones. 

We dropped a shrimp trap 260 feet down on the way into Camelon Harbor and found a safe quiet anchorage in the south part of bay. There we spent hours picking crab, froze a bunch, and had a big, all you can eat, crab dinner. Does it get any better than this?  The next day after sorting through the assortment of little crab, skinney fish, and spotted prawns caught in our shrimp trap, we found the incoming tide and sailed into Okisollo Channel to anchor in Owen bay, just north of the rapids that lead to the Octopus Islands.

I'd been waiting to get far enough north to get away from light pollution so we can see the stars.  But we never see the full dark sky, even in the dark of the moon, because it stays light so long here.  At 11:00 PM there is still light in the sky.  At 2:00 AM we can see a glow on the horizon.  By 4:00 AM dawn is happening. Then the other night, after watching a long movie on the laptop, we went on deck to see if the sliver of new moon was visible.  It was. But there was something else going on.  In the north was a glow like you'd see when anchored across the hills from a city.  Across the sky directly overhead were three long stripes of light blue light, extending from horizon to horizon, north to south. Could this be the northern lights?  As time went by, they marched across the sky then disappeared altogether.

All Females

I set and checked the crab trap three times there in Owen Bay.  The total count for those three sets was 14 females and 3 males.  Some of the females were gigantic! But all of them went back to the deep.  We shouldn't keep the females and only one male was large enough so we set him free, thinking that life must be wonderful for a young adult male crab with all those females around.  Looks to me like Owen Bay has seen too many crab traps. 

Homestead on the island
There are four slack current times per day for transiting the rapids. Two of those are at night or near dark, so forget about those.  Of the other two, one is the slack at low tide and the other is slack at high tide.  If we are headed toward the way the flood tide runs then it's best to catch the slack when it turns from low tide (ebb) towards a flood current. That way we can safely transit the rapids then have a nice rising tide to push us on our way on the other side.  Similarity, if our destination is toward the ebb, then we should transit at high slack and ride the ebb to our destination. 

Hole in the Wall
We choose to move from Owen Bay to the Octopus Islands during the afternoon slack to flood.  Hence, we had plenty of time for a hike on Sonora Island, following a rough road that becomes a meandering path to an overlook of the upper rapids and the entrance to Hole In The Wall.  Walking the "road" we could tell that it had not seen many vehicles lately.  Is was evident that the dozen or so waterfront homes used the water for transportation and so the roads and paths were for walking or running a wheelbarrow full of groceries up to the neighbor.  The ramshackle nature of the buildings tell us there isn't much need for building codes here on the island.  What a perfect place for the do-it-yourself type individual. We dreamed about bringing up a load of lumber and shingles and making ourselves a little private camp.  Of course there was no internet here, so we'll put this blog in the hopper to wait for later.  In the meantime it's time to head over to the Octopus Islands.  The tide is turning within the hour!